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The discussion and analysis presented after these translated stanzas is our opinion.  Read the translations for yourself and our analysis, but also seek out varied sources and come to your own conclusions.


Auden & Taylor:

I forget the name men give the heron
Who hovers over the feasts;
Fettered I was in his feathers that night
When a guest in Gunnlod's court.


Over beer the bird
of forgetfulness broods,
And steals the minds of men;
With the heron's feathers fettered I lay
And in Gunnloth's house was held

Bellow's Note:  The heron: the bird of forgetfulness, referred to in line 1. Gunnloth: the daughter of the giant Suttung from whom Othin won the mead of poetry. For this episode see stanzas 104-110.


A bird of unmindfulness
flutters o'er ale feasts,
wiling away men's wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I
was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.


The heron is called
who hovers over men
stealing their minds
I was bound by that fowl's feathers
when I was in Gunnloth's garth.


The heron of heedlessness hovers o'er the feast;
and stealeth the minds of men.
With that fowl's feathers fettered I was
when I was Gunnloth's guest.


The mind-stealing heron
hovers over feasts
waiting to seize men's wits;
that bird's feathers fettered me
when I came to Gunnlod's court.


Oblivion's heron 'tis called
that over potations hovers
he steals the minds of men.
With this bird's pinions
I was fettered
in Gunnlds dwelling. 


Stanza's 10-14 sort of chain together...or at least build on each other. Here, Stanza 13 continues and expands on the topic of alcohol which was brought up in Stanza 11, and then taken a little further in stanza 12.

Lines 1 and 2 give this very poetic image of this heron or bird hovering over the feasting hall where alcohol is served...stealing men's minds and making them forget.  Essentially, stealing their wisdom.  And we've already been told how important wisdom is.

And since the Havamal is presented to us as wisdom being communicated to us by Odin (Odin is the narrator, is probably a better way of saying that), then lines 3 and 4 refer to the story of Odin winning (taking) the mead of Poetry from Gunnloth, Suttung's daughter.  In order to take the mead, Odin made a deal with Suttung's brother, and then ended up forcing the brother to help Odin get access to Gunnloth.  Odin then seduces Gunnloth, and drinks all of the mead of Poetry.  So, these two lines refer to Odin being affected by the heron (or bird) from the first two lines...when he had consumed all of that mead at once.

Bellows, in his note to Stanza 14 believes that stanzas 13 and 14 were probably inserted into the Havamal over time, as illustrations of the lesson about alcohol being shared in 11 and 12.  If we understand these poems as being originally part of a living, evolving oral-storytelling tradition...then we can at least understand what Bellows is suggesting. 

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